ZAGREB, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) -- Croatia's national civil protection headquarters announced on Friday an extension of anti-pandemic measures until the end of January.
The current measures that include the closure of cafes, bars, and restaurants, and limit public gatherings were imposed on Nov. 28, 2020 and were expected to expire on Jan. 10. But the authorities decided to extend them due to the current negative trends in the spread of coronavirus in Europe.
Although there is a downward trend in new COVID-19 cases, Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic told reporters on Friday that the measures are still necessary due to a high number of hospitalizations and cold weather that could help spread the virus.
He noted that the authorities still expect the impact of the Christmas and New Year holidays as well as the recent earthquakes in the country on new COVID-19 cases. Currently, there are 2,251 hospitalized patients in the country, after the highest number of 2,956 was recorded on Dec. 21.
The civil protection headquarters have not made a decision on schools which are currently closed for holidays but are projected to open on Jan. 18.
"The situation in Europe is also worrying. Countries that have stricter measures than Croatia have a rapid increase in the number of new cases," the minister said at a press conference.
Since Feb. 25 when the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the southeastern European country, over 217,000 people have been infected with the coronavirus, and 4,304 of them have died. In the last 24 hours, the Croatian Institute of Public Health registered 1,098 new cases.
Health Minister Vili Beros said Friday that the spread of COVID-19 has slowed down thanks to the measures and citizens' responsible behavior. But he also warned about the mutations.
According to the authorities, Croatia's incidence rate over 14 days is 351.8 per 100,000 people, and its COVID-19-related death rate is 1,032 per million people.
As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, vaccination is underway in some countries with the already-authorized coronavirus vaccines.
Meanwhile, 235 candidate vaccines are still being developed worldwide -- 63 of them in clinical trials -- in countries including Germany, China, Russia, Britain and the United States, according to information released by the World Health Organization on Jan. 6.